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Balance Is Good, Running The Ball Is Better

Balance is a tricky notion. It is a good thing for a football offense to have. But there comes a point where the effort of being balanced begins to outstrip the value of an offense being balanced. Are the Cincinnati Bearcats at that point.


230 Runs, 182 passes. Through six games that is Mike Bajakian's play selection. If you want that in percentages it is 56 per cent run, 44 per cent pass. That is not perfectly balanced, but its not far off. The output of the Bearcats offense, in terms of yardage, is more of the same 225 yards rushing, 241 yards passing. That's all well and good, but I can't quite escape the notion that the adherence to balance isn't quite in the best interests of the team going forward.

The one thing the Bearcats offense does best is run the Football. In every game but one the Bearcats have racked up at least 200 yards on the ground. That 225 yards per game average ranks 16th in the country, and 5.89 yards per carry that the Bearcats are averaging as a team ranks 6th nationally. But here is the crucial point, of the top 20 or so running games in the country only Florida State is averaging fewer rushes per game.

Mike Bajakian's commitment to balance is admirable, but increasingly it seems that this Bearcats team is one that is going to have to run the Football to win games. Going back to the Toledo game an argument could be made that Bajakian abandoned the running game far too soon. In the second half of that game UC put the ball in the air 17 times compared to 10 rushes. This in a second half where the Bearcats never trailed by more than 6 points and finished the game averaging 7 yards per carry.

Munchie Legaux is this team's starting quarterback, and I maintain that he is the best option for this team, and its not even that close. But the question must be asked, is Munchie throwing the ball 30 times per game really the best use of his skill set. I think the obvious answer is no.

Before the season I tried to answer the question of what the offense with Munchie at the helm would look like. This was my best guess.

My suspicion is that the Bearcats offense in 2012 will be built on the running game, just as it was last year. That's part of that has to do with the deficiencies of all the quarterbacks. If I were a conspiracy theorist I would use this moment to say that this is the reason Munchie is getting the job, he brings more to the table as a runner than anyone else. Munchie bringing more to the table as a runner is a fact. He is afterall one of the 10 or so best athletes on this team. I have a feeling that this season will be one of the most run heavy years that Butch Jones has had as a head coach.

While the running game this year is, by far, the most productive and efficient that Jones or Bajakian has ever had, they still aren't running the ball more than previous teams. To wit; through his first five seasons on the job Mike Bajakian's offenses have averaged 37 rushes per game. This season, with the deepest stable of backs he has ever had, an offensive line that is, perhaps, the best in school history and one of the best athletes on the team playing QB UC is averaging, wait for it, 38 rushes per game. Just one more run per game.

An argument could be made that the weird nature of the schedule, with two FCS games, two byes in September and 10 straight games to close out the season has lead to the coaching staff trying to manage personnel, reps, hell everything to set up for the long, long closing stretch. That is certainly the case with Munchie's running as he only has 44 attempts on the year, and has crossed double digit carries just once* in six games.

* 11 against Virginia Tech. Those carries came mostly from Munchie running for his life in the face of constant blitzes that turned loose free runners at the QB. The number of designed carries in that game was closer to 4 or 5.

That is simply not enough. If you look at the offensive stats for this team, not just for Munchie, they are impressive. UC has rolled up at least 425 yards of offense in every game this year,** Scoring is the highest since 2009, the current 6.8 yards per play is also the highest since 2009. By statistical measures the Bearcats are having one of the better offensive seasons in school history.

**Last years team topped 425 yards just three times a year ago, the 2010 team only did it five times

And yet, in watching this team play week after week, usually two times, if not three, I have yet to be really blown away by the performance of the offense Yes this group stacks big play after big play, yes they convert at a high clip on third down, they spread teams out and make them cover in space. But there hasn't been a game yet that blew my hair back

But, and this is my personal source of frustration with this team, they let teams off the hook, and leave points and yards on the field by not utilizing the running game enough, particularly the running of Munchie Legaux. Six games are down, this team already has a loss in the column, but a realistic shot at another BCS bid. But its not going to happen unless this coaching staff drops the pretense of balance, bends to reality and starts running the ball to win, and not just to be balanced. The potential of this offense is scary, there are a lot of weapons to worry about from George Winn and Ralph David Abernathy IV to Kenbrell Thopmkins, Damon Julian and Travis Kelce. But the offense will never reach peak efficiency unless Bajakian starts using the running game to set up the rest of the offense. Viva La Munchie! Viva La Bearcats

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